Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) supervised a potentially risky investment of more than $31 million from state worker pensions into a Chinese government-backed firm — that has since been deemed a threat to the US — while he served as the commonwealth’s treasurer.
As custodian of the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System, Casey looked after the investment of $31,386,930 in China Mobile Ltd. — one of the largest foreign assets held by the state at the time.
Casey, 62, who is running next year for a fourth term in the US Senate, helped grow the substantial Chinese investments in 2006, according to a contemporary financial report on the fund from 2007.
A report covering the previous year, 2005, does not list China Mobile as one of the fund’s largest holdings, nor does one for the year before that — though the levels of many other investments remained unchanged.
The state report for 2007 also does not show China Mobile among the fund’s largest assets, despite the level of investment having nearly doubled from 2005 to 2006.
China Mobile has since been designated a national security threat, with the Department of Defense in June 2020 noting the company was part of the Chinese Communist Party’s “military-civil fusion national strategy.”
The New York Stock Exchange delisted China Mobile in January 2021 following the Pentagon’s designation.
President Biden, in a June 2021 executive order, further demanded US shareholders divest from the company, citing China Mobile as one of many threats “posed by the military-industrial complex of the People’s Republic of China.”
The Federal Communications Commission also deemed China Mobile a threat to national security in March 2022.
Founded in Hong Kong on Sept. 3, 1997 — weeks after the territory was handed over to Beijing by the United Kingdom — China Mobile is owned by China Mobile Communications Corp., which is a subsidiary of the People’s Republic of China.
The China Mobile assets were one of many lucrative holdings Casey oversaw when he served as state treasurer from 2005 to 2007, investing much of Pennsylvania taxpayers’ money in international equity.
The holdings in China Mobile were agreed to by Casey as the fund’s custodian as well as 10 other board members of the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System, including former Pennsylvania House members Nicholas J. Maiale, Michael F. Gerber, and Robert W. Godshall; and former Pennsylvania state senators Gibson E. Armstrong, Raphael J. Musto, and M. Joseph Rocks.
A spokeswoman for Casey’s office told The Post Monday that the senator should not be held responsible for the investment.
“This story is a false attack — the investment in question was made before Bob Casey became State Treasurer in 2005,” she said.
“No one is tougher on China than Senator Casey. During his time in the Senate, he has fought to crack down on China’s currency manipulation, and against unfair trade practices and US corporations that invest in China at the expense of American workers,” she added.
The spokesperson did not respond to a follow-up question about whether Casey approved further investments in China Mobile in 2006.
Casey has touted his experience handling the Pennsylvania state employee retirement fund, both as treasurer and in his eight years as the commonwealth’s auditor general.
“As Auditor General and State Treasurer of Pennsylvania, I took a particular interest in the two state public pension funds, for teachers and public employees, which are traditional defined benefit plans,” Casey said in a July 2008 press release.
“As Auditor General, I audited both funds and as State Treasurer, I served as a trustee for both funds. It gave me an insight into the benefits of well-run defined benefit plans, both to retirees and to our economy as a whole,” he added.
Additionally, Pennsylvania’s pension fund paid $15,315 to the state-owned Bank of China for trading broker commissions under Casey in 2006.
Most state employees are required by law to enroll in the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement Code, which handles benefits for around 240,000 employees and retirees, according to its website.
Employees gain a lifetime pension after contributing roughly 6% to the fund for a minimum of five years, or at least 10 years if they were hired after Dec. 31, 2009.
Casey was succeeded as state treasurer by Robin Wiessmann, whom Biden chose last April to serve on the board of Amtrak.
Wiessmann is listed as state treasurer on the financial report for 2006, since the document was finalized in June 2007, six months after Casey was sworn in as a senator.
Casey’s financial ties have drawn scrutiny from ethics watchdogs in recent weeks, after The Post revealed his campaigns have paid more than $500,000 to a printing company owned by his sister and brother-in-law.
Meanwhile, as Congress weighs a ban on TikTok over national security concerns, Casey is one of the few federal lawmakers with an account on the Chinese-controlled social media app.
— to nypost.com